The Common Good
December 2010

Nothing to See Here...

by Ed Spivey Jr. | December 2010

Having successfully survived a mid-life crisis -- mainly by living past mid-life -- I felt it was finally time to sell my Harley, the vehicle I procured a few years back to counter the ...

Having successfully survived a mid-life crisis -- mainly by living past mid-life -- I felt it was finally time to sell my Harley, the vehicle I procured a few years back to counter the feelings of insecurity that come with aging. (Actually, my insecurities began a few years before mid-life, specifically when Bonnie Hartley was mean to me in second grade. But my therapist feels strongly that I should just let it go and stop sticking my tongue out at random 7-year-olds.)

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Fortunately, in the Internet age there are many ways to sell a motorcycle. I first placed an ad on Craigslist, but then I got calls from people wanting to date my Harley. So I decided to try eBay, a popular auction site famous for its ease of use among computer engineers with advanced degrees. For the rest of us, however, there is a high learning curve that includes accidentally purchasing things you don't want, such as 12 composting toilets that I somehow placed a bid on. Thankfully, I was outbid -- probably by some other first-time user shopping for a DVD player -- and didn't have to pay for my transgressions.

My motorcycle had been on eBay for a week, and the only response I got was from a guy who asked if his $6 bid included shipping. (I distracted him with a link to composting toilets, then pulled my ad before I got into more trouble.)

Finally a friend of a friend bought the bike, and I agreed to ride it out to his house for the price of $3,000 and a lift to the nearest subway station. As it turned out, it was the farthest stop on the entire D.C. Metro line, so I had to plan my strategy for riding an hour on public transportation with $3,000 cash in my pocket. With the confidence that comes from being a thousandaire, I accepted the challenge.

The key, I figured, was to blend in and not attract attention. Just act normally, I told myself, not like a man carrying $3,000. To that end, I wadded up the cash and pushed it into my right rear pocket, figuring the protrusion would be dismissed as an unsightly medical condition, at which people wouldn't want to stare. I further attempted to obscure it by pulling out half of my shirttail, which I then gripped tightly with my right hand. This caused me to walk with a slight limp, but that's to be expected when you stiff-arm your own shirt, and a small price to pay for becoming virtually invisible to the curious.

But to my surprise, I seemed to be attracting the attention of a few people as I walked to the far end of the subway platform. Not wanting to prolong their unwanted interest, I started whistling, in a carefree way, "When the Saints Go Marching In," figuring that, in combination with my other actions, this would convey the nonchalance of a man who definitely wasn't carrying $3,000.

But they kept looking at me, as did others. This required quick thinking on my part. What could I do to reassure these strangers that there was absolutely nothing out of the ordinary about a man standing alone at the far end of a subway platform and holding something bulgy in his back pocket?

So I started dancing, in time to "When the Saints Go Marching In," despite the fact that family members have told me when I dance I look like I’m trying to dislodge ill-fitting underwear. Their unhelpful opinions aside -- I dismiss it as envy -- I was hoping this would reassure onlookers that I was just another average guy lost in his own musical moment, despite a noticeable protrusion in his back pocket. Finally, they turned away from me, shaking their heads, no doubt feeling it was a shame I didn’t have $3,000 to pay for psychiatric care.

Once inside the train and seated -- admittedly, at an awkward angle resulting from sitting on a bulging pocket covered by a shirttail held by one of my hands -- I continued whistling, just a happy rider sitting comfortably at a 45 degree angle who is definitely not carrying a lot of cash.

An hour later at the bank, having fooled dozens of people about my true mission, I limped proudly up to the teller, pulled the bulky parcel from my pocket, and walked out tucking my shirt in with the pride that comes from promising myself I would never do such a stupid thing like that ever again. (Editor's Note: You are so weird.)

Ed Spivey Jr. is art director of Sojourners. His award-winning book, A Hamster is Missing in Washington, D.C., is in its second printing and available at store.sojo.net.

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